Never too late: Quentin Griffin finishes his quest for a diploma

    Former running back Quentin Griffin stands alongside OU athletic director Joe Castiglione at the student-athlete graduation banquet.

     

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    May 16, 2017

    When diminutive Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he left as the school's fourth-leading rusher with 3,938 career yards. Griffin only trailed two Heisman Trophy winners in Billy Sims (4,118) at No. 1 and Steve Owens (4,041) at No. 3, plus silver-shoed great Joe Washington (4,071) at No. 2.

    A chance to play in the NFL put Griffin's academic progress on hold. In his second season with the Denver Broncos, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Griffin set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season opener with a career-high 156 on 23 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs. A budding NFL career abruptly was cut short when Griffin tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee in Week 7. He would never play another regular-season game again for the Broncos.

    In 2005, Griffin had dropped to No. 4 on Denver's depth chart and was released. He was brought back a few weeks later, then released again. In 2006, Griffin was signed by the Chiefs and later cut. In 2007, the Hamburg Sea Devils made Griffin the second overall pick in the NFL Europa Free Agent Draft. In 2008, he signed the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL and was cut after the team's final preseason game. In July 2013, Griffin signed with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in Germany (GFL1).

    When Griffin's football odyssey finally came to an end, a daunting task awaited if he was going to finish what he started academically at OU.

    When he left the Sooners, Griffin was 33 credit hours short of earning his undergraduate degree. "My mother, she planted the seed (to graduate) and kept watering it," Griffin said with a smile. "It was in the back of my mind, but once I got it to the front of my mind, that's the push I needed."

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    Gregg Popovich rant on Zaza is an all-timer

    BY SCOTT DAVIS

    Business Insider

    May 15, 2017

    San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ripped Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia on Monday for a controversial foul that injured Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

    During the third quarter, Pachulia closed out on a Leonard shot attempt and appeared to put his foot under Leonard after the shot.

    Leonard, whose injured ankle kept him out of Game 6 and part of Game 5 of the Spurs' second-round series against the Houston Rockets, landed on Pachulia's foot and had to leave the game. The Warriors went on an 18-0 run, erasing most of a 23-point Spurs lead. The Warriors won the game 113-111, outscoring the Spurs by 25 points without Leonard for most of the second half.

    While it was unclear whether Pachulia's foot placement was intentional, Popovich said it was "a totally unnatural close-out" and listed past incidents he considers dirty plays by Pachulia:

    "A two-step, lead-with-your-foot close-out is not appropriate. It's dangerous. It's unsportsmanlike. It's just not what anybody does to anybody else.

    "And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can go back and look at Dallas games where he got a flagrant two for elbowing Patty Mills. The play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it.

    "And then think about the history he's had and what that means to a team, what happened last night: a totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it."

    Popovich then angrily broke down how Leonard's injury could affect the Spurs' title chances:

    "You wanna know if that lessens our chances or not? We're playing very possibly the best team in the league. We don't know what's gonna happen in the East. And 9.75 people out of 10 would figure the Warriors would beat the Spurs.

    "Well, we've had a pretty damn good season. We've played fairly well in the playoffs. I think we're getting better. We're up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down like that. And you wanna know if our chances are less? And you wanna know how we feel? That's how we feel."

    At the time of Popovich's media availability, Leonard was getting an MRI. Popovich said the Spurs expected Leonard to miss Game 2.

    As many people pointed out, Pachulia's so-called foot trick has been around the NBA for years. Former Spurs wing Bruce Bowen was perhaps the player most known to slide his foot under jump shooters, risking potential injury. The Spurs retired Bowen's number, leading some to say Popovich's rant was hypocritical.

    After Game 1, Leonard said he didn't think Pachulia was trying to intentionally hurt him. Pachulia also defended himself, saying big men often get called for many unintentional fouls.

    Popovich, however, brushed that aside.

    "I don't give a damn about intent," he said. "You still go to jail for manslaughter."

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    Why Oregon State (41-4) is dominating college baseball

    Oregon State has a 24-3 record against Pac-12 teams and is 10-0 against teams in the Top 50 of the current RPI.
    BY MIKE LOPRESTI

    NCAA.com

    May 15, 2017

    Start with the 41-4 record. Doesn’t that tell us all we need to know about the No. 1 ranked Oregon State team that is so clearly at the top of the baseball heap as the NCAA Tournament nears?

    Well, no. Lots of other things to mention, if we are to be up to date in our Beaver-ology. Here are 19 of them:

    1. Oregon State is 10-0 against teams in the top 50 of the current RPI.

    2. Junior Luke Heimlich leads the nation in earned run average with a nice, tidy 0.76. Actually, he should be a sophomore. He graduated from high school a year early and took the fast lane to Corvallis, Oregon.

    3. Heimlich and fellow pitcher Jake Thompson have combined to start 26 games. They have allowed 19 earned runs between them, and 109 hits. Plus 19 wins and one loss.

    4. Thompson has an earned run average of 1.11, third in the nation as of Monday, and a lot lower than his 3.6 grade point average in economics.

    5. Second baseman Nick Madrigal has been the catalyst on offense, hitting .389 at the top of the lineup. The 5-7 sophomore has been around the game for a long time. When he and his twin brother were born, their father put baseballs in their cribs at the hospital.

    6. The current Pac-12 membership has won 28 national championships. Next best is the SEC at 11. So it takes heavy lifting to win the league, but the Beavers just clinched the conference, and lead by light years. Actually, seven games through Sunday. They are 24-3 against Pac-12 teams by a combined score of 152-73.

    7. Oregon State has been to five College World Series. The Beavers’ first was 1952. They had to wait 53 years for the next one, but have been four times since 2005 — which says something about Pat Casey’s coaching era.

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    College football's early signing period set for December

     

    BY CHRIS HUMMER

    247Sports

    May 9, 2017

    College football's early signing period, which was officially approved Monday, is expected to occur on the third Wednesday of each December to align with the mid-year junior college transfer window, according to Susan Peal, Director of Governance for the National Letter of Intent program.

    "It is anticipated that the football early signing period will align with the football mid-year (junior college) transfer signing period each year," Peal wrote 247Sports in an email. "So that would start the third Wednesday of December."

    The 72-hour early signing period for high school seniors will start Dec. 20, 2017.

    This early signing period is in addition to college football's standard National Signing Day, which occurs the first Wednesday of February each year. In essence, college football now has two National Signing Days with recruits having the option to sign in December or February.

    The early signing period is one of a number of prominent pieces of legislation the Division I Council approved earlier this year. Others included a 10th full-time assistant, a change in the official visit schedule with an additional window from April to June, which goes into effect April 1, 2018, and changes to the way off-season recruiting-related camps are conducted.

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    Jason Day looks to regain status at Players Championship

    Depending Tournament Players champion Jason Day is attempting to regain his status as the world's No. 1 player. (Photo by Getty Images)
    BY ROB BOLTON

    PGATOUR.COM

    May 9, 2017

    Not only does THE PLAYERS feature the deepest field in the game but it lands in Segment 3 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO. With little if any concern about needing more than three starts on any golfer, there's no reason not to select everyone you want. And because of the depth, go ahead and consider one or even two options driven by your heart.

    That seemingly careless approach is mitigated by the promise that straight chalk is likely going to yield disappointment on some level no matter the stakes. This is the rub of TPC Sawgrass. So, you might as well go halfway and take some of that pressure off.

    My roster for the THE PLAYERS (in alphabetical order):
    Rickie Fowler
    Sergio Garcia
    Martin Kaymer
    Hideki Matsuyama
    Rory McIlroy
    Justin Thomas

    Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):

    Scoring: Jason Day; Jason Dufner; Adam Hadwin; Brian Harman; Dustin Johnson; Brooks Koepka; Justin Rose; Adam Scott; Jordan Spieth; Jimmy Walker
    Driving: Paul Casey; Graham DeLaet; Jason Dufner; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Francesco Molinari; Louis Oosthuizen; Jon Rahm; Adam Scott; Kyle Stanley
    Approach: Paul Casey; Jason Dufner; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Kevin Kisner; Kevin Na; Jon Rahm; Jordan Spieth; Kyle Stanley
    Short: Graham DeLaet; Jason Dufner; Adam Hadwin; Brian Harman; Dustin Johnson; Zach Johnson; Brooks Koepka; Marc Leishman; Graeme McDowell; Jon Rahm; Jordan Spieth

    Power Ranking Wild Card
    Branden Grace … Fourth appearance. Hasn't missed a cut but hasn't cracked a top 40. Like fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, gamers can usually turn to Grace in the deepest fields of the season not only for their consistency but also to spell notables who don't present as appealing. Grace's statistics won't wow anyone, but that's the same reason why too many won't be on board.

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    All John Daly wants after victory is a Miller Lite

    John Daly celebrates with a champagne shower after winning the Insperity Invitational near Houston. (Photo by Getty Images)
    BY RYAN BALLENGEE

    Yahoo Sports contributor

    May 8, 2017

    John Daly did all the right things on Sunday at the Insperity Invitational near Houston. He wore American flag pants. He kissed a large, painted Arnold Palmer umbrella logo walking up the final fairway. And, for the first time in more than 13 years, he won on American soil.

    Daly won the 54-hole tournament at The Woodlands Country Club by a shot over Kenny Perry and Tommy Armour III, picking up his first win on PGA Tour Champions, the 50-plus circuit.

    Coming to the final hole, Daly led by two shots after he found the green with his approach to the lengthy par-4 finisher. However, the two-time major champion was 60 feet away. He would go first, but if Perry made his birdie putt from the fringe, a potential second putt could mean the difference between winning and a playoff. Daly coaxed his first putt to 6 feet. When Perry missed his birdie bid, Daly had two putts for the win, which he took.

    Daly was greeted by his wife and showered by his peers with champagne in a perfect scene.

    “For me it’s like, you know, some guys come out here and win right off the bat, get the monkey off their back,” Daly said. “But now I can say I’m a champion on the Champions Tour, which is really cool and hopefully I can keep this confidence going.”

    This is the first win in the United States for Daly since winning the PGA Tour’s 2004 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines near San Diego. He has won around the world since then, including a mini-tour PGA of Europe event in 2014. But winning on home soil and on PGA Tour Champions, which he was expected to do well before his one-year anniversary of his debut, is a much bigger deal.

    And how will Daly celebrate?

    “I just want a Miller Lite,” Daly said. “That’s all I want.”

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    Time for MLB to declare war on fan conduct

    Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.
    BY BUSTER OLNEY

    ESPN Senior Writer

    May 2, 2017

    If you get into a fight at a ballpark, you will be ejected and anybody who goes to a ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers read a warning about fan conduct.

    If you touch a ball in the field of play, you will be ejected. Anybody who goes to the ballpark knows this, because before every game, public address announcers warn fans about this particular cause and effect.

    If you run onto the field, you will be ejected, and will be subject to a trespassing charge. Everybody knows this, because before every game, public address announcers remind fans about what will happen.

    In this way, Major League Baseball and the 30 teams could declare war on the kind of language that was directed at Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones Monday night. It’s a simple gesture that could make a big difference in protecting players and fans from this kind of garbage.

    As it stands, public address announcers in ballparks reference “abusive” language in their pregame announcement: Abusive language will not be tolerated...

    That warning can be much more explicit, forceful, and powerful: Any fan who aims racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay words at on-field personnel or fans will be immediately ejected and banned from (fill in the ballpark) permanently.

    It is mind-boggling -- appalling -- that this sort of step would be necessary, but that is where we are and where we have been. Seventy years and 17 days have passed since Jackie Robinson played in his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but generations of players have reported incidents similar to what Jones talked about with USA Today and the Boston Globe after Monday’s game: The N-word and other words or phrases hurled from the stands as weapons of mass degradation.

    Many players relate these episodes off the record, trying to bypass the conflict and treating the racist taunts as something to be endured. But why does anyone need to endure it within the confines of a private business establishment?

    Why should Adam Jones listen to it? Why should any player, any fan have to listen to it without consequences, any more than they would tolerate some idiot running around the field for nine innings, or somebody throwing punches in the center-field bleachers?

    If Major League Baseball and teams reinforce the language of the pregame warnings from the public address announcer, they can help embolden a silent majority -- the tens of thousands of fans at each game who aren’t yelling racist crap at players and who can point out to security the one or two who manage to demean everybody by deploying the N-word.

    The stakes will be raised, the culture shifted: If you say that stuff, security will find you with the help of 40,000 deputized fans prepared to make this the last day you are welcome at this park.

    If you say that stuff, you will be ejected. And everybody will know it.

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    NFL Draft grades: Wait a minute, no one failed?

     

    BY PETE PRISCO

    CBSSports.com

    April 29, 2017

    If you are reading this, you know I like to pick things apart. Drafts, situational coaching and players -- you name it.

    But somehow, as I did the grades for this year's NFL Draft, I had to stop for a second because I think many teams did a good job handling their board.

    I didn't give out one "F" this year. I handed out five "A" grades.

    What is wrong with me? Call me Mr. Softy.

    The five teams that earned "A" grades in my mind were the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and -- surprise, surprise -- the Cleveland Browns.

    As chic as it has become to rip the Browns, there is no denying they did a great job with their draft. They had a lot of picks and made the most of those picks, with the only knock being trading back into the first round to take Michigan safety/hybrid player Jabrill Peppers. That was a reach, but they did a nice job the rest of the way.

    They ended up with three first-round picks, landing Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, Peppers with the 25th pick and Miami tight end David Njoku with the 29th pick. They moved up to get both Peppers and Njoku thanks to extra draft picks they acquired in recent years.

    If second-round quarterback DeShone Kizer is a hit -- and he is talented -- the Browns will look back on this draft as the one that turned around the franchise. That's how good their draft was this year.

    Maybe all those analytics work after all. Or maybe they finally got somebody who can simply put on the tape and find good football players.

    Now here are the rest of the grades:

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    NBA playoffs: Postseason offers parity and purity

    Golden State's Stephen Curry reacts after making a 3-pointer against Portland in Game 2 of an opening-round series. (Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images)
    BY JOE KNOWLES

    Chicago Tribune

    April 21, 2017

    Parity or purity? Good thing or bad thing? Call it what you like, but the NBA doesn't seem concerned by the fact that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds win an overwhelming majority of the league' titles.

    When someone points out that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds have won 10 of the last 12 championships — the other two were won by No. 3 seeds — the NBA counters by saying that the league has had six different champs in the past seven seasons.

    "Over a 82-game season, the best teams rise to the top," NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said Thursday at the league's annual meeting with a group of sports editors.

    Based on that logic, it only figures that those teams prevail in the postseason. That's purity.

    "The top teams win," Tatum said, "but it's not the same top teams."

    And there's your parity.

    In the other major sports, top seeds aren't nearly as dominant in the playoffs, and bottom seeds even win an occasional championship. In the NFL, six wild-card teams have won the Super Bowl. Six wild-card teams have won the World Series, including three in a row from 2002-2004. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed in 2012.

    A No. 8 seed has never won an NBA title and only one — the Knicks in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season — has ever reached the Finals.

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    OU women's gymnastics seeks third title in four years

    The Oklahoma women's gymnastics team tied for the 2014 NCAA crown with Florida and won the national title outright last season.
    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    April 13, 2017

    Oklahoma women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler said she could feel the crowd pulling for her team to win at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala.

    At that time, only five schools had won national titles since the NCAA first sanctioned the sport in 1982 – Georgia (10), Utah (9), Alabama (6), UCLA (6) and defending champion Florida (1). The up-and-coming Sooners were the team of the moment.

    For the first and only time in NCAA women’s gymnastics, there wound up being national co-champions as OU and Florida finished with identical scores of 198.175 three years ago. The Sooners happily embraced their role as co-champions after the Gators had edged OU for the 2013 NCAA crown by a margin of 0.200 (197.575-197.375).

    Well, times have changed.

    The Sooners were the 2016 national champs all by themselves and will seek back-to-back crowns when the NCAA Championships are held Friday and Saturday at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. OU will compete in Semifinal I at noon Friday against No. 4 Utah, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Denver and No. 13 Washington. The top three finishers from Semifinal I and Semifinal II advance to the NCAA “Super Six” on Saturday night to compete for the national title.

    Fresh off their fifth undefeated regular season under Kindler, the defending champs are this weekend’s No. 1 seed for a multitude of reasons, the most recent of which came April 1 at the NCAA Seattle Regional, where the Sooners posted a nation-high 198.075 in regional competition. OU entered the meet with a program record with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 198.010.

    OU’s overall excellence this season frequently has been perfection with four gymnasts combining for nine perfect 10.0s. Though only a freshman, Maggie Nichols already owns the school career record with six and scored at least one 10.0 in every event, becoming just the ninth collegiate gymnast to ever do so. Senior McKenzie Wofford and sophomore Nicole Lehrmann each earned a 10.0 on the uneven bars and senior Chayse Capps scored a 10.0 on the balance beam. Six OU gymnasts earned a nation-best 14 regular-season All-America honors this season, with junior AJ Jackson and sophomore Brenna Dowell joining the aforementioned perfectionists. (Dowell scored a 10.0 in 2015 on uneven bars.)

    Seventeen of OU’s scores this season rank in the top 10 in program history.

    Suffice to say, the Sooners no longer are up-and-coming. They have reached the summit and have no intention of descending anytime soon.

    “They have a target on their back,” Kindler said of her team. “People are gunning for them. Everyone roots for the underdog, and that’s not us. Now there’s that expectation and pressure knowing people are gunning for you. We just need to focus on ourselves and not on that.”

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    Updated list of best golfer never to have won a major

    Former Oklahoma State standout Rickie Fowler is still searching for his first major.
    BY GOLF DIGEST

    March 31, 2017

    Ahhh, the everlasting best-golfer-never-to-have-won-a-major debate.

    The 2016 season produced four first-time major champs in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker.

    As we approach the 2017 Masters, Golf Digest put a new formula to work to determine who are the best current players who haven't hoisted a trophy at one of golf's four biggest events.

    Golf Digest only used results from the past two years, so heartbreak veterans like Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood took a hit. Not that they should mind. If you're on his list for too long, the last thing you want is to be reminded about it.

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    Federer tops Nadal for his 18th Slam title

    Roger Federer Australian Open
    Roger Federer celebrates his fifth Australian Open title. Getty

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title and put some extra distance on the all-time list between himself and Rafael Nadal, the man he beat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a vintage Australian Open final on Sunday night.

    It was the 35-year-old Federer's first major title since Wimbledon in 2012, his first in Australia since 2010, and it reversed the status quo against his nemesis, Nadal.

    Both players were returning from extended layoffs -- Federer for six months after Wimbledon with an injured left knee; Nadal for a couple of months with an injured left wrist -- and were seeded 17th and ninth respectively.

    "It's been a different last six months, I wasn't sure I was going to make it here but here I am -- we made it," Federer said after accepting the trophy from Australian great Rod Laver, who lends his name to the main stadium at Melbourne Park.

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    Serena claims 23rd major title in finals win against Venus

    Serena Williams 2017 Australian Open Winner
    (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
    AP CBSNEWS

    Jan. 28, 2017

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams has won her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, and her sister was right there on court to give her a congratulatory hug.

    The all-Williams final - the first at the Australian Open since Serena won the first edition of the family rivalry here in 2003 - went to the younger sibling 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday night.

    With her record seventh Australian title, the 35-year-old Williams moved ahead of Steffi Graf for the most major titles in the Open era. Margaret Court has the all-time record and was also in the crowd for the final at Rod Laver Arena.

    Court won 24 majors, but collected 13 of those before the Open era which began in 1968 after the sport became professional.

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    Venus, Vandeweghe have something to prove

    Venus Williams Breaks Record

     

    USA TODAY SPORTS

    January 24, 2017

     

    MELBOURNE — It’s not often that a sports superstar stays in the game long enough to receive accolades as the oldest to achieve a great milestone.

    At 36 years old, Venus Williams created that scenario for herself on a glorious Tuesday afternoon when she became the oldest women’s player to ever reach the Australian Open semifinals. Just for the record, if 35-year-old sister, Serena, also ventures into the semifinals on Wednesday, she will become the second oldest player to attain Australian Open semifinal status.

    The 13th-seeded Venus Williams moved on in grand style by scoring a 6-4, 7-6 (3) quarterfinal win over 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia at Melbourne Park. If the fans were impressed, Williams was thrilled, flashing a smile as bright as the Australian summer sun that was shining down on her from above.

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